Foster Care is Contagious
“Wait a second,” my friend called out to the car as I dropped her daughter home, “I want Brian to see the girls.”
I had been a foster parent for a few months and Michelle, like many of my other friends, was in awe of the journey we were on and the beautiful little girls it had brought into our lives. Brian came out into the cold and peeked in my van to see our two new foster daughters. They were overtired and crying and not very impressive at all, and he forced out some nicety before running back inside. I rolled my eyes at my friend’s attempt to recruit her husband to foster parenting, as she laughed, “I’ll convince him one of these days.”
Michelle understood what I’ve come to learn: Foster care is contagious.
When we started looking into foster care, I knew exactly one foster parent. And by “knew” I mean that she was a stranger who went to my church, and I walked up to her one Sunday and awkwardly introduced myself (“You’re a foster mom...will you be my friend?”). Now, three years later, I know people from every corner of my life who have become, are becoming, or plan on becoming foster parents. Nearly all of my very best, lifelong friends are foster or adoptive parents. I got three e-mails from friends yesterday about how to get started in becoming a foster parent.
Now I’m not under the delusion, for a moment, that any of this is due to my persuasive speech or my exceptional parenting. I am absolutely certain that anyone who has seen me sweating, whisper-yelling, and carrying a crying baby on each hip has thought whatever the opposite of “sign me up for that” is. It’s not me, it’s not my words, it’s not my lifestyle. It’s getting to know the precious children.
We can hear about foster care and the 400,000+ kids in homes and the 100,000+ waiting to be adopted and easily move on with our happy little lives. Facts don’t creep into your thoughts, numbers don’t motivate prayers, statistics don’t break our hearts. People do.
Simply knowing about “foster children” isn’t very compelling. But getting to know a foster child, one specific child, can change us. When we know their stories and speak their names and see their faces and hold their hands, they enter our hearts.
When we needed someone to care for our foster son for for the weekend, I contacted my case worker and asked if he could stay with Michelle and Brian. Michelle would get her baby fix, and I wouldn’t have to send him off to a stranger. I saw it as the perfect babysitting scenario. Michelle saw it as the perfect “foster parent recruiting” scenario. After two days with the baby, she dropped him off at my house and gushed about how much they both loved having him. They started babysitting him more regularly, sometimes to help me and sometimes because they just wanted to spend time with him.
Michelle thought she wanted to be a foster parent before, but now she knew it. And her husband, who had never considered getting involved with foster care, who admitted to me he thought I was crazy when I had, had fallen in love with a foster child and was on board with Michelle to become a foster parent.
A few weeks ago, Brian e-mailed me. He told me he was grateful to me for "opening his heart and mind" to foster care. He told me that as he got to be around my foster son, he couldn't help but want what was best for him. He told me that this little boy would be in his heart forever.
He had learned, as I had, that all it takes is getting to know these kids for them to enter your heart...that foster care is contagious.